Monday, December 04, 2006

Bogus terrorism claims by the government perpetuates Islamophobia

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061204/METRO/612040338

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lawyers fight terrorism tag

Attorneys for suspects in smuggling case want to strike such language from criminal indictments.

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Lawyers for three defendants in a tobacco and counterfeit Viagra smuggling case are asking federal prosecutors to strike terrorism-related language from their indictment, saying the case has nothing to do with terrorism.

Language in the 2003 indictment related to terrorism and support for Hezbollah will hurt the ability of defendants to receive fair trials, lawyers for brothers Majid, Jihad and Fadi Hammoud said in pleadings filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The brothers are among 18 people indicted in a racketeering conspiracy case that alleges smuggling of untaxed or low-taxed cigarettes from Indian reservations as well as smuggling of stolen goods and counterfeit goods such as false imitations of the sexual potency pill Viagra.

Advocates for Muslim and Arab-Americans say the case is only one of many examples since 2001 of prosecutors treating defendants unfairly by alleging, but not charging, ties to terrorism in cases involving financial crimes.

Federal prosecutors allege some of the proceeds from the tobacco smuggling racket were sent to Lebanon to support Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations.

But lawyers for the Dearborn-area brothers argue no charges of supporting terrorism have been filed and no admissions of supporting terrorism have been made in several guilty-plea agreements already reached in the racketeering case.

"It's cheap trickery," James Burdick of Bloomfield Hills, the attorney for Majid Hammoud, said Friday.

"If they thought there was any real connection between these guys and any remotely related activities or terrorists, they would have charged them."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who is handling the case, said the government would file a response to the motion in court and that it would be inappropriate to reply through the news media.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan, said alleging terrorism in cases in which Muslim or Arab-Americans may have been involved in criminal activity is spreading an Islam-phobic climate in the United States.

"The vast majority of these allegations have been totally unfounded," Walid said.

Walid cited the example of three Texas Muslims arrested in Michigan earlier this year after purchasing large numbers of cell phones at big-box stores. Local prosecutors alleged the men had ties to terrorism. All charges were eventually dropped.

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